Musings from Paris: A recap of Unleash World 2023

Duncan Miller

Senior Global Marketing Leader for Cornerstone

As the cool breeze of Autumn swept through Paris, European HR Leaders gathered, looking for insights and inspiration ahead of the upcoming financial year. #UnleashWorld was in full swing at the Porte de Versailles convention centre in Paris. The cloudy skies this year cast even darker moods following France’s unexpected exit from the Rugby World Cup. Inside, it was a different story. The convention centre buzzed with lights and flashing screens, coffees percolated and a thousand well-trained vendors practiced their lines before the big show.

Opening keynote with Josh Bersin

Attendees were welcomed by a mix of familiar faces and colleagues, setting the tone for an exciting day buzzing with anticipation. Our trusted host, David Green, kicked things off with his trademark flair, setting the stage for the day's events. He even humorously added the latest essential addition to Maslow's hierarchy of needs: Wi-Fi! David's energy and insights were contagious as he introduced our opening keynote speaker, Josh Bersin. Josh wasted no time painting a vivid picture of a new era driven by AI-powered technology. He took us on a journey through the cutting-edge developments in this field, using a mix of familiar and fresh slides. Josh emphasised that as we venture into a post-industrial era and the long-felt “war for talent” reaches a never-ending crescendo; AI holds the potential to empower a “superhuman” workforce by connecting employees, managers and leaders to information and learning at an unprecedented pace. Check out his recent post on Adapting to AI.

AI was the talk of the event

Talking of AI, which in this event stood for “Absolutely Insane” due to the absolutely insane amount of focus on this topic. If you looked at the messages on the stands and checked out the conference agenda or spoke to anyone, you’d quickly realise those two letters were on everyone’s minds.

Cornerstone was right in line with this trend. Our very own Vincent Belliveau discussed the need to make AI Intentional. He pointed out that this was familiar to us in many cases as we’ve been helping customers integrate AI into their tech ecosystem for a long time. It's all about using AI to expand skills and recommend learning paths, content and job opportunities for employees.

Vincent also highlighted the emerging possibilities that generative AI brings in coaching and creating content to enhance the overall talent experience throughout the employee journey. But he wisely reminded us that we must keep sight of the core business and people challenges we are trying to solve. While AI has the potential to solve key questions and challenges concerning our workforce, it’s essential to remember that AI itself isn’t the singular answer.

Aside from the fun conga lines forming outside Paul’s bakery (a sight to behold), there were some other fantastic highlights on the first day. One session that stood out was the "Learning and Skills" breakout featuring David Wilson (CEO of Fosway Group) and long-standing Cornerstone customer, Nestlé. Their discussion focused on building a “Future-Ready Workforce” and the pivotal role that learning could play in helping organisations and their people be ready for a rapidly changing world. Global Learning and Development Lead Sophie Bonnaire Lafont said, “A world without learning is a world without progress,” and commented on the social responsibility organisations have to managers and employees in preparing them for the future.

As day 1 closed down, we enjoyed hearing from some Rugby heavyweights talking about resilience and reinvention. With drinks flowing at the stands and people leisurely leaving the venue, there was a lasting impression that the Unleash team had truly outdone themselves. It was clear that their event, created to foster a passion for people and shed light on the frontier of modern workplace culture, was a success!

Opportunity for great conversations

Day 2 started at its leisurely place with rumors of rugby stars and roof-top parties drifting in and out of morning conversations. At the same time, vendors hustled to bring energy once more, supported by the Unleash figurines and the ever-present DJ at the entrance.

At the Cornerstone stand, we eagerly looked forward to the second day. The frantic pace of day 1 meant many conversations with customers and visitors were rebooked on day 2. Armed with pastries, coffees and software demos, we spoke about tech and talent challenges in a more relaxed and informal way.

Meetings with industry analysts provided valuable insights into the evolving market. The common theme was the need for organisations to better understand where technology could help. We spoke about our recently launched Talent Health Index report, which serves as a compass, outlining the vital components of a comprehensive talent program and offering solutions to conquer your most pressing talent challenges. It's all about boosting the overall well-being of your organisation. We highlighted how the research indicated that high-performing organisations appeared to be in better “health” regarding their talent programs. Many of them liked that we had introduced a maturity model mapping the stages of talent health, creating a free self-assessment tool to help organisations plot precisely where they are today. Curious to see how your organisation stacks? Take the free assessment right here.

Mike Bollinger, hosted a fantastic fireside chat and Kate Graham led tours of the start-up community. The highlight from Day 2 was Volker Hirsch's session. He talked about AI replacing thousands of jobs in the future and the need for humans to embrace the qualities that truly make us unique. Think creativity, empathy and critical thinking which create meaningful connections and a sense of belonging.

Wrap-up of Unleash World 2023

As we reflect on the event a week later, #UnleashWorld in Paris was not just an event but a celebration of the transformative power of technology, the importance of learning, and the unique qualities that make us human. It truly left everyone feeling motivated, enlightened and eager to dive into the exciting challenges and opportunities that the future holds.

We will continue helping organisations chart a path toward a robust and thriving talent program for the future. Ultimately, it's all about guiding businesses, individuals and teams through a world where yesterday marked the slowest pace of change for the rest of our lives (and major kudos to Volker for that wisdom).

Ready to turbocharge your talent program? Take the free THI assessment right here and gain insights into the health of your talent initiatives.

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